The California assembly member who introduced the legislation, Patrick O’Donnell, has insisted the legislation is not just “a big win” for “four-legged friends”, but for California taxpayers too, as they spend hundreds of millions on sheltering animals across the state.
On the back of yesterday’s article about dogs obtaining protein from eating soldier ants comes another piece from the BBC about fibre. It has much information some of which I hadn’t come across before.
So it’s another share with you.
The lifesaving food 90% aren’t eating enough of.
By James Gallagher, Health and science correspondent, BBC News
January 11th, 2019.
If I offered you a superfood that would make you live longer, would you be interested?
Naturally it reduces the chances of debilitating heart attacks and strokes as well as life-long diseases such as type-2 diabetes.
And it helps keep your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels down.
I should mention it’s cheap and widely available in the supermarket.
What is it?
Fibre – it’s not the sexiest thing in the world but a major study has been investigating how much fibre we really need to be eating and found there are huge health benefits.
“The evidence is now overwhelming and this is a game-changer that people have to start doing something about it,” one of the researchers, Prof John Cummings, tells BBC News.
It’s well known for stopping constipation – but its health benefits are much broader than that.
How much fibre do we need?
The researchers, at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, and the University of Dundee say people should be eating a minimum of 25g of fibre per day.
But they call this an “adequate” amount for improving health and say there are benefits for pushing past 30g (1oz).
Is that all?
Well, a banana on its own weighs about 120g but that’s not pure fibre. Strip out everything else including all the natural sugars and water, and you’re left with only about 3g of fibre.
Most people around the world are eating less than 20g of fibre a day.
And in the UK, fewer than one in 10 adults eats 30g of fibre daily.
On average, women consume about 17g, and men 21g, a day.
What other foods have more fibre in them?
You find it in fruit and vegetables, some breakfast cereals, breads and pasta that use whole-grains, pulses such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, as well as nuts and seeds.
Elaine Rush, a professor of nutrition at Auckland University of Technology, has put together this example for getting into the 25-30g camp:
half a cup of rolled oats – 9g fibre | two Weetabix – 3g fibre | a thick slice of brown bread – 2g fibre | a cup of cooked lentils – 4g fibre | a potato cooked with the skin on – 2g fibre | half a cup of chard (or silverbeet in New Zealand) – 1g fibre | a carrot – 3g fibre | an apple with the skin on – 4g fibre
But she says: “It is not easy to increase fibre in the diet.”
Prof Cummings agrees. “It’s a big change for people,” he says. “It’s quite a challenge.”
cooking potatoes with the skin on | swapping white bread, pasta and rice for wholemeal versions | choosing high-fibre breakfast cereals such as porridge oats | chucking some chickpeas, beans or lentils in a curry or over a salad| having nuts or fresh fruit for snacks or dessert | consuming at least five portions of fruit or vegetables each day
Well, after analysing 185 studies and 58 clinical trials, the results are in and have been published in the Lancet medical journal.
It suggests if you shifted 1,000 people from a low fibre diet (less than 15g) to a high-fibre one (25-29g), then it would prevent 13 deaths and six cases of heart disease.
That’s during the course of these studies, which tended to follow people for one to two decades.
It also showed lower levels of type-2 diabetes and bowel cancer as well as lower weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
And the more fibre people ate, the better.
What is fibre doing in the body?
There used to be a view that fibre didn’t do much at all – that the human body could not digest it and it just sailed through.
But fibre makes us feel full and affects the way fat is absorbed in the small intestine – and things really become interesting in the large intestines, when your gut bacteria get to have their dinner.
The large intestines are home to billions of bacteria – and fibre is their food.
It’s a bit like a brewery down there, admittedly one you wouldn’t want a pint from, where bacteria are fermenting fibre to make a whole load of chemicals.
This includes short-chain fatty acids, which are absorbed and have effects throughout the body.
“We have this organ set up to digest fibre, which a lot of people just don’t use very much,” says Prof Cummings.
Why is this relevant now?
The fact fibre and whole-grains and fruit and vegetables are healthy should not come as a surprise.
But there is concern people are turning their back on fibre, with the popularity of low-carb diets.
Prof Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, says: “We need to take serious note of this study.
“Its findings do imply that, though increasingly popular in the community at large, any dietary regimes that recommend very low-carbohydrate diets should consider the opportunity cost of missing out on fibre from whole-grains.
“This research confirms that fibre and whole-grain intakes are clearly important for longer term health.”
The study has been done to help the World Health Organization come up with official guidelines for how much fibre people should be eating to boost health and they are expected next year.
From the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, white bread fell while brown and wholemeal rose.
Since then, white bread sales have continued to fall, but brown and wholemeal bread sales have been falling for most of that period, although at a slower rate.
So it looks as if while overall demand for bread has been falling, a higher proportion of bread sold has been higher fibre.
Whole wheat pasta has made less of an impact on sales than higher fibre breads, with a survey for the British Journal of Nutrition finding that pasta accounted for less than 1% of the occasions on which people were consuming whole grains.
Well nothing much more to be said other than going vegan.
I had to look twice at this but it wasn’t April 1st and it appeared to be a serious article. It’s from the BBC website.
Will say no more. You have a read of it.
Climate change: Will insect-eating dogs help?
By Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst
10th January, 2019
Do you fret that your pet pooch is blamed by environmentalists for turning rainforests into poo in the park?
Have no fear – you can now fatten Fido on black soldier flies instead of Brazilian beef.
A pet food manufacturer now claims that 40% of its new product is made from soldier flies.
It’s one of many firms hoping to cash in on the backlash against beef by people concerned that the cattle are fed on soya.
These soya plantations are responsible for the release of greenhouse gases in significant quantities.
Is it good for the dog?
The key question is whether a diet of 40% soldier flies meets the nutritional needs of your beloved canine.
We put the question to a pet diet expert at the Royal Veterinary College, Aarti Kathrani. Her conclusion was a cautious “yes”.
“Insects can be a very useful source of protein,” she told us. “More studies are needed to show how much of these nutrients can actually be absorbed by a dog’s body – but some studies suggest that insects can provide nutrients for dogs.”
Does it help the climate if dogs eat flies?
At first sight it seems obvious that feeding your dog meaty food is bad for the environment. The link between humans eating meat and the allied emissions of CO2 and methane is well established – and pets are estimated to eat 20% of global meat.
It’s also true that flies produce protein much more efficiently than cows – using a small percentage of the water and land.
But actually the analysis is more subtle than that – because as societies become more wealthy, people often turn to muscle meat and reject the animal’s offal.
That offal is just as nutritious – and it gets made into pet food. That means that dog food is just as sustainable – or unsustainable – as humans eating meat.
In fact, if dogs were weaned off meat and on to insects, the industry would have to find another purpose for the offal. More sausage, perhaps? Or more humans eating insect protein. Or more going vegan?
Could cat food be made out of insects, too?
Dogs are omnivores – they eat more or less anything. Cats are much more choosy, because they can’t make an essential amino acid, taurine. They find it instead in meat and fish.
But Dr Kathrani says studies show that insects do contain taurine, so it’s possible that insects could also form a useful part of the moggie diet.
The new product is from Yora, a UK start-up. The insect grubs are fed on food waste in the Netherlands.
There are several competitors which also produce pet food incorporating fly protein. They include Insectdog, Entomapetfood, Chippin and Wilderharrier.
Now I have heard of some strange things but in essence this does make very good sense.
The owner of a dry-cleaning shop got a surprise recently when he heard crying and mewing from the back of one of his machines. Fortunately, this on-the-ball dry-cleaner called an animal rescue squad who rescued the four small kittens and reunited them with their mother.
According to the BBC , the dry cleaning shop where the kittens were found is located in Forest Gate, a residential suburb of London. The shop owner called animal rescuers from the Celia Hammond Animal Trust, a local animal rescue center, to help identify the source of the sounds.
Rescuers dismantled the tumble dryer where the noises were coming from and found four small ginger kittens inside. They also located the kittens’ mother when they noticed a distressed cat pacing outside the shop.
The shop owner told rescuers that a nearby resident had moved and left the pregnant cat behind. That poor distressed mama clearly needed a warm, dry place to give birth and she found it inside the dry-cleaning tumble machine.
One of the animal rescuers noted on their Facebook page that the kittens were in bad shape when they were found, “[w]hen we picked them up they were filthy, covered in grease and dirt and had been breathing carbon tetrachloride fumes since they were born in the back of the machine.”
Thankfully, the kittens and their mother are now being well cared for in a foster home.
One might ponder about the kittens having a clean start to their young lives! (Sorry!)
Yesterday, a wonderful number of readers ‘Liked’ my set of photographs on the theme of being a wildlife photographer. Thus it was providential, when deliberating on what to write for today’s post, to see that George Monbiot had published an article covering his recent interview with Sir David.
Before republishing that interview, let’s take a look at the man; Sir David that is!
Wikipedia has a comprehensive and fulsome description of him, that opens, thus:
He is best known for writing and presenting the nine Life series, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, which collectively form a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on the planet. He is also a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s. He is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, and 3D.
From across YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, we’ve taken your comments during #AttenboroughWeek and made this video as a thank you to everyone who got involved. Click on the annotations to see each of the clips in full.
My interview, in his 90th year, with Sir David Attenborough
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 23rd January 2016
You cannot meet David Attenborough without reflecting on the lottery of life. He bounces into the room unaccompanied, a little stiff in the lower back perhaps, but otherwise breezy and lithe. He is sound in wind and limb, vision and hearing, his eyes sparkle, his face is scarcely rumpled by time. Yet in three months he will celebrate his 90th birthday.
While other people’s worlds tend to shrink with age, his seems to expand. His curiousity ranges as widely as ever. His ability to understand and assimilate new information seems unabated. “Oh, I forget things,” he claims. When I press him for examples, he tells me, “Well, where I put my glasses, I had them about three minutes ago and they have simply evaporated, they’ve dematerialised. Oh yeah, and I forget engagements.”
But these, surely, are afflictions suffered by anyone immersed in the world of ideas. He has no diffulty remembering the things that fascinate him. When I ask him about his new project, his body bundles up with excitement.
“Luminous earthworms! Did you know about luminous earthworms? Aaah, aaah, yes, very interesting. I’m doing a thing on bioluminescence … and with a little research we discovered that there are earthworms in France that are luminous – in the earth! Why? Yes, why?! Well at the moment I am just thinking about it. As you well know there’s a gene for luminosity and it’s very widespread, and so you would like to suppose that it has some antiquity. So maybe luminosity was a by-product of digestive processes or energy processes or something.
“And if it is, the exciting thing is – what about all those graptolites, what if they were luminous?! In which case, now you suddenly realise that trilobites have bloody good eyes, so maybe they were there too! Wow!” (Graptolites and trilobites are long-extinct marine animals).
I mention his latest film, which will air on Sunday, about the excavation and reconstruction of the skeletons of Titanosaurs, the biggest terrestrial animals known to have walked the Earth. Why, I ask, do dinosaurs exert such a grip, especially on the minds of children?
“Partly because nearly all the adults have got it wrong. It’s one of the easiest subjects for a kid – or it was when I was a kid – for you to expose your parents, because you had just read the new cigarette card and there was a name there, a polysyllabic name, your parents had never heard of.”
And there he still was, I realised, the boy with his cigarette cards, his excitement about creatures that lived many millions of years ago undimmed by the passage of mere decades.
So this is what must have happened. On one of his early expeditions through a remote tract of rainforest, he stumbled across the elixir of life. He has been hoarding it ever since and surreptitiously sipping a little every day. Either that, or he is simply the luckiest man alive: fit, bright, relevant, in love with life, the last man standing.
He has the decency to be aware of his luck. “People sitting in corners doing nothing aren’t there because they want to sit in the corner doing nothing. They would much rather be doing [things]. And I am lucky enough to be able to do them. It would be very ungrateful to have that facility and not use it.” He has, of course, no intention of retiring.
There is only one lifeform he is reluctant to discuss, the scientific curiosity known as Sir David Attenborough. He created a powerful sense, when talking, of intimacy and candour, leaning in, holding my gaze, twinkling and gurning, speaking in his confidential whisper. But when I came to read the transcript of our interview I found that what had felt like frank confession was nothing of the kind. What he said with his body bore no relation to what he said with his words.
I pressed him several times on an issue with which I have long been struggling. How do those of us who love the natural world cope with its loss? He must have seen more than his fair share of devastation.
“Oh yes, of course. You go to Borneo and see oil palms everywhere where there was forest. You see people everywhere where there weren’t people.”
“And how does it affect you, seeing those changes?”
“Well you feel apprehensive for the future, of course you do.”
“So how do you cope?”
“I don’t have a rosy view of life, of the future, I look at my grandchildren and think ‘what are they going to have to deal with?’, of course I do. How could you not?”
But what about the emotional impact? Does he not get depressed? Does he have a mechanism for avoiding depression? He answered by bouncing the issue onto someone else.
“I once asked exactly the same question of Peter Scott [the great British conservationist, who died in 1989]. And he said, ‘Well you can only do what you can do.’ So what I do is what I can, but I wish to goodness I had done a tenth of what Peter did.”
While his self-deprecation is charming, it also seems defensive. I pictured those two quintessentially English men stroking their chins and repeating “you can only do what you can do” to each other, and thought of a scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. An army captain pays a call on one of his men, who is lying in bed, nonchalently reading a book. “What’s all the trouble, then?”. “Bitten, sir. During the night”. “Hmm. Whole leg gone, eh … Any idea how it happened?”. “None whatsoever. Complete mystery to me. Woke up just now, one sock too many.” Monty Python made their television debut on BBC2, commissioned by the controller at the time, a certain David Attenborough.
When talking in general terms, he uses the word “I”. When asked to talk about his feelings, he says “you”. Some of this is perhaps generational: it was once considered vulgar to discuss such matters. But perhaps his great fame has also obliged him to develop a carapace. I asked whether his public life has blurred the boundaries of his private self.
“There has always been the private and the public thing in you, in everybody”, he replies. “You are different things to different people, to your children, to your television producer.”
Can he go anywhere in public without being mobbed?
“I have to confess the ubiquity of the selfie is, er – On occasion when they say ‘do you mind’, I say ‘well, I am off duty at the moment’, and they say ‘oh are you?’, by which time I’m three yards down the road. But I do have to remember that they are the people who … listen to me, you know, and so you try not to be rude.”
I asked him if he ever gets lonely. His wife, Jane Oriel, died almost 20 years ago.
“Hmm? Oh. My daughter lives in the same house as me now and has done for many years. So once a day I see her, she runs my business affairs and, you know, I’m very lucky.”
He is just as discreet about the politics surrounding his work. On the day I met him, the controller of BBC2 and BBC4, Kim Shillinglaw, lost her post. He was plainly delighted, chuckling and winking and grinning when he asked me whether I had read that morning’s news. But he was careful to say nothing quotable. Television producers I know expressed intense frustration at her instant and unexplained dismissal of programmes they proposed on environmental themes.
But the problem, as I perceive it, is much wider than that: has there not been a systemic failure by television to cover the great crisis of our age: the gradual collapse of the Earth’s living systems?
“I am absolutely certain that the general public at large is more aware of the natural world than it was even before the industrial revolution,” he replies, “and that people are well informed about not only what the world contains but the processes that go on. Television has made a contribution to that. … I greatly regret the fact that there are no or very few regular – ”
He stops himself, and plunges into a more general discussion of scheduling. Surely, I persist, there’s a real problem here? Entire years have passed without a single substantial programme on environmental issues.
“Well,” he says, more crisply than at any other time in the interview, “you’ll have to take that up with the controllers.”
I suggest that his own interest in the state of the world appears to have intensified in recent years.
“That’s not an interest. I wish I didn’t have it. I wish there was no need to have it. It’s not an interest, it’s an obligation.”
But he has surely been more prominent as an environmental voice in the past twenty years than he was before?
“Well yeah, and that is very simple in that I have been in the BBC all my working life, practically, and you knew very well … that if you said something, just because you are on the damn box people thought it was true and you’d better be bloody well sure that it is true.”
(I used to curse this reticence, willing him to get off the fence and denounce the destruction of all he loved.)
He explains that his views on climate change crystallised when he attended a lecture – he could tell me when it was if he had his diary to hand – by the president of the US National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone. After that, he made two programmes, called Are We Changing Planet Earth? and Can We Save Planet Earth?
Attenborough is not just a master of the art of television, but also one of the medium’s pioneers, producing programmes almost from its launch in this country, and guiding the development of some of its treasured strands, first as controller of BBC2 (from 1965 to 1969), and then as the BBC’s director of programmes (until 1973). Has he helped to create a monster?
“Well it depends how you define a monster. And are all monsters malign?”
Has it not encouraged us to be more sedentary, I ask: to spend less time engaging with the world about us? He laughs and winks: “And we gave up sitting in pubs for three or four hours a day! How awful!”. Would he lay any ills at the door of television? “Oh yes, of course. Adipose tissue.” Anything else? “What you might call visual chewing gum, in that it stops you thinking about anything else. But then I feel that about music. I mean I cannot understand how people want to go round with -” he mimes a pair of headphones and shifts the conversation onto a safer subject.
I was packing my things after saying goodbye when suddenly he sprang back into the room, this time wearing his glasses and holding a small leather filofax. “I’ve found the details of that lecture by Ralph Cicerone. I thought you’d want to know.” He showed me the address and the date: 2004. The old scientific habit – record your facts, check your facts – had not deserted him. As I marvelled at his recollection that he had left something hanging, and his determination to resolve it, this remarkable specimen of life on earth skipped away to his next appointment.
So let me continue on a little more by offering a short clip of Sir David as millions will have seen him from the wonderful animal partnerships BBC series.
Then it’s only natural for this blog to offer this item:
Then I am going to close today’s post by presenting a video that was first shown in this place back in September 2012.
If you need a reminder of how beautiful our planet is (and I’m sure the majority of LfD readers don’t require that reminder) then go back and watch David Attenborough’s video and voice-over to the song What a Wonderful World. This short but very compelling video shows why the planet is so worth protecting. Enjoy!
So make a diary note to celebrate Sir David’s 90th birthday on May 8th.
Once again, the power of unanticipated consequences.
I find it easy to lose sight of recent world events, for every new day seems to bring some new challenge to batter one’s emotions.
So a news item on the BBC website last Friday brought back into focus the debt challenges for Greece, or more pertinently, the Greek people, or even more precisely, Greek dogs.
Here’s what I read:
A million stray dogs ‘victims of Greek debt crisis’
3 October 2015 Last updated at 07:10 BST
Among the many problems brought on by the Greek debt crisis is a surging population of stray dogs.
Animal charities say there are now more than a million strays in Greece because people are simply abandoning pets they can no longer afford to keep.
There are fears it could lead to the spread of disease if the problem is not tackled soon, as Emilia Papadopoulos reports.
Emilia’s video report was uploaded to YouTube, thus allowing me to share the sad situation with you.
A quick search online found the following photograph.
That sad picture came from the ANSAmed website, that included a fuller report on the situation. That report ending:
According to the deputy mayor of Athens, Angelos Antonopoulos, who is also in charge of environmental issues, city officials in Athens picked up 457 dogs in the capital’s streets last year, providing medical treatment for 305 of them.
Antonopoulos, a vet by profession, admits that the number of cases of abandoned domestic animals – dogs in particular – has risen alarmingly because of the economic crisis, but says that a new trend is emerging for the same reason. Indeed, an increasing number of people who want to own a dog are choosing to adopt strays from the city’s doghouse rather than buying one from a pet shop or from dog-breeders. “People are becoming increasingly aware of the problem,” Antonopoulos says, providing a ray of hope for his four-legged patients. (ANSAmed).
Finally, I came across what appears to be a Greek charity, Stray.gr, and I’m going to contact them to see if readers of Learning from Dogs who wish to donate, can do so. Will report back.
The history of power, control, those who wield it, and where it has taken us all.
There is a real pain in me as I start into today’s post. A pain that comes from agonising over whether or not to write in this vein. A pain that has its roots in me being forced to accept that global politics, money and power-plays are much worse than I ever wanted to believe.
What, you must be asking, has got me plunging so far into this dark place? When just twenty-four hours ago I was writing of peace, calm and deep meditation?
Simply a film!
A film that was uploaded by the BBC a few days ago exclusively on to their BBC iPlayer platform.
The film is called Bitter Lake and here’s the trailer.
The full film is 2 hours, 20 minutes long. (But note that the film is age-restricted for obvious reasons.)
I can’t encourage you to watch it. For if you do, the world may never seem the same to you.
But Jeannie and I did watch it and think it should be shared widely. And, yes, it has changed the world for us.
Here’s how it is described by Adam Curtis and the BBC.
Published on Jan 26, 2015
Shown exclusively on the BBC iPlayer service in the UK
This upload is for those outside of the UK
Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events.
But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis – leaving us bewildered and disorientated.
And journalism – that used to tell a grand, unfurling narrative – now also just relays disjointed and often wildly contradictory fragments of information.
Events come and go like waves of a fever. We – and the journalists – live in a state of continual delirium, constantly waiting for the next news event to loom out of the fog – and then disappear again, unexplained.
And the formats – in news and documentaries – have become so rigid and repetitive that the audiences never really look at them.
In the face of this people retreat from journalism and politics. They turn away into their own worlds, and the stories they and their friends tell each other.
I think this is wrong, sad, and bad for democracy – because it means the politicians become more and more unaccountable.
I have made a film that tries to respond to this in two ways.
It tells a big story about why the stories we are told today have stopped making sense.
But it is also an experiment in a new way of reporting the world. To do this I’ve used techniques that you wouldn’t normally associate with TV journalism. My aim is to make something more emotional and involving – so it reconnects and feels more real.
BBC iPlayer has given me the opportunity to do this – because it isn’t restrained by the rigid formats and schedules of network television. It’s a place you can go to experiment and try out new ideas.
It is also liberating – both because things can be any length, and also because it allows the audience to watch the films in different ways.
The film is called Bitter Lake. It is a bit of an epic – it’s two hours twenty minutes long.
It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence – and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened – because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.
But there is one other country at the center of the film.
This is because Afghanistan is the place that has repeatedly confronted politicians, as their power declines, with the terrible truth – that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. Let alone control it.
The film shows in detail how all the foreigners who went to Afghanistan created an almost totally fictional version of the country in their minds.
They couldn’t see the complex reality that was in front of them – because the stories they had been told about the world had become so simplified that they lacked the perceptual apparatus to see reality any longer.
And this blindness led to a terrible disaster – support for a blatantly undemocratic government, wholesale financial corruption and thousands of needless deaths.
A horrific scandal that we, in our disconnected bubble here in Britain, seem hardly aware of. And even if we are – it is dismissed as being just too complex to understand.
But it is important to try and understand what happened. And the way to do that is to try and tell a new kind of story. One that doesn’t deny the complexity and reduce it to a meaningless fable of good battling evil – but instead really tries to makes sense of it.
I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours – some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd.
These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them I have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.
A counterpoint to the thin, narrow and increasingly destructive stories told by those in power today.
And I must include this comment from the relevant page on BBC Blogs:
Quite simply one of the best films I’ve ever watched. The theme and content made so many connections linking events of the last 40 years. It’s perhaps time to reflect on power ,control and those who wield it . The official narrative is not our narrative , we have a choice to decide what we believe . Time to reflect and make that choice.
Thanks for such an informing film.
Let’s start with the Ebola outbreak with the latest news from the BBC suggesting:
The death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak has risen to 4,447, with the large majority of victims in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward also said there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week within two months if efforts were not stepped up,
But the rate of new infections in some areas has slowed down, he added.
I’ve been musing as to whether or not I was going to republish a recent essay from George Monbiot. The one in question being The Kink in the Human Brain. It opens, thus:
Pointless, joyless consumption is destroying our world of wonders.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 2nd October 2014
This is a moment at which anyone with the capacity for reflection should stop and wonder what we are doing.
If the news that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) fails to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it’s hard to imagine what could. Who believes that a social and economic system which has this effect is a healthy one? Who, contemplating this loss, could call it progress?
In fairness to the modern era, this is an extension of a trend that has lasted some two million years. The loss of much of the African megafauna – sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyaenas and amphicyonids (bear dogs), several species of elephant – coincided with the switch towards meat eating by hominims (ancestral humans). It’s hard to see what else could have been responsible for the peculiar pattern of extinction then.
My spirits continued downward, especially when I clicked on that first link and read this from the Guardian website:
The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.
“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.
“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.
Then a few days ago, one of our neighbours sent me an email with his latest news about ISIS. This is what he sent:
Got this from one of my closest friends today, it came from his brother so I’m pretty confident that it’s true. There is some really bad stuff on the horizon and it’s probably gonna come this way like a runaway train!! Everybody better start thinking about where they want to stand when push comes to shove!
With “this’ being in part:
Missionaries who are in the areas that are being attacked by ISIS. ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families – even if it means their own deaths. They are very afraid, have no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have had seen their children martyred. Yet he says he knows God has called them for some reason to be His voice and hands at this place at this time. Even so, they are begging for prayers for courage to live out their vocation in such dire circumstances. And like the children, accept martyrdom if they are called to do so. These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom. Please surround them in their loss with your prayers for hope and perseverance.
One missionary was able to talk to her brother briefly by phone. She didn’t say it, but I believe she believes it will be their last conversation. Pray for her too. She said he just kept asking her to help him know what to do and do it. She told him to tell the families we ARE praying for them and they are not alone or forgotten — no matter what. Please keep them all in your prayers.
Love the poem/verse Illusion. The lines, Following the herd, bleating like sheep, Held captive, half asleep. hit a strong note with me.
As we often wonder why people can’t think for themselves outside the box but then again maybe that is part of being human. Life is a mystery isn’t it? Enjoyed the post,
Maria’s comment about life being a mystery was interpreted by me as humans being a mystery and the realisation that it has ever been so. For it resonated with a recent programme over on the BBC that included information on the ancient Teotihuacan people who ruled in what is present-day Mexico some 2,000 years ago. From Wikipedia:
Teotihuacan /teɪˌoʊtiːwəˈkɑːn/, also written Teotihuacán (Spanish About this sound teotiwa’kan (help·info)), was a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city located in the Valley of Mexico, 30 miles (48 km) northeast of modern-day Mexico City, known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramids, Teotihuacan is also anthropologically significant for its complex, multi-family residential compounds, the Avenue of the Dead, and the small portion of its vibrant murals that have been exceptionally well-preserved. Additionally, Teotihuacan exported a so-called “Thin Orange” pottery style and fine obsidian tools that garnered high prestige and widespread utilization throughout Mesoamerica.
The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC, with major monuments continuously under construction until about AD 250. The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, but its major monuments were sacked and systematically burned around 550 AD. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more, making it at minimum the sixth largest city in the world during its epoch. Teotihuacan began as a new religious center in the Mexican Highland around the first century AD. This city came to be the largest and most populated center in the New World. Teotihuacan was even home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate this large population. The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan or Teotihuacano.
That BBC programme also included the fact that almost on a daily basis the Teotihuacan authorities viewed the assassinations of often hundreds of lower class people as perfectly normal.
In other words, despicable cruelty of man upon man, not to mention an utter disregard for the natural world, has been going on for thousands of years!
Thus it underlined to me, in spades, that what ‘other people’ get up to is, to a very great extent, irrelevant. Because whatever the circumstances we have a choice: we always have a choice. Or if you will forgive me for repeating my closing sentences in yesterday’s post:
Whatever is going on in the world, whatever has the power to create fear in our minds, in the end it comes down to another power, the power of thought, and our choice of the behaviors that we offer the world.
That is why dogs are so important. Because they almost predominantly love sharing and living their lives in the company of humans.
A thank you to all those that work so hard to stop fires from getting out of control.
I am drafting this post at a little after noon on the 4th., i.e. early afternoon yesterday.
It is yet another dry, hot day in a long run of hot, dry days. Our local online weather service, GrantsPassWeather.com, informs me that the temperature this afternoon (i.e. yesterday) is forecast to be a high of 93 deg F. or 34 deg C. We last had monthly rain totals of more than an inch back in March. At the top of the home page of Grants Pass Weather is a bold red banner proclaiming a Red Flag Warning for three counties: Jackson, Josephine and Eastern Curry. We live in Josephine County and clicking that banner reveals:
…RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 10 PM PDT THIS EVENING FOR COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITIES FOR FIRE WEATHER ZONES 280…281…617…619…620…621…622 AND 623…
* AFFECTED AREA: FIRE WEATHER ZONES 80…281…617…619…620…621…622 AND 623.
* HUMIDITY…MINIMUM RELATIVE HUMIDITY AT 10 TO 20 PERCENT FOLLOWED BY RECOVERIES TONIGHT AT 20 TO 40 PERCENT.
* WIND…NORTHEAST TO EAST WINDS 10 TO 20 MPH THROUGH THIS EVENING THEN 5 TO 15 MPH OVERNIGHT.
* IMPACTS…POSSIBLE PLUME DOMINATED BEHAVIOR ON ACTIVE FIRES AS STRONG WINDS AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITIES THROUGH THIS EVENING WILL CAUSE FIRES TO SPREAD VERY RAPIDLY.
STRONG WINDS AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITIES WILL CAUSE FIRES TO SPREAD VERY RAPIDLY.
Does this focus the mind? You bet! The trees in the foreground of the above photograph are within our property. Our house is surrounded by tall oaks, pines and fir trees.
Now stay with me through what, at first, may seem like a disconnected change of topic.
Long, long time ago Jean met Ira Weisenfeld, a young vet making his way in the world. Jean’s passion for rescuing feral street dogs meant that she was a more active user of a vet’s services than the average pet owner. Jean and Ira became very good friends.
Earlier on this year, we had the pleasure of the company of Ira’s daughter, Amber, who came to see us with the man in her life, Ben Elkind.
Fast forward to the 1st September and Amber sent us the following email:
Hello Paul and Jean!
Hope you guys are doing well. Here is a BBC story about smokejumpers in Redding, CA where Ben works, he is interviewed too. Thought you might like it! Hope you had a wonderful summer. I just finished the boundary water canoe trip with Dad, it was very good.
Forest fires kept at bay in US by elite ‘smokejumpers’
26 August 2014 Last updated at 00:48 BST
The drought that has gripped much of the American West shows no sign of abating – yet despite the tinder-box conditions, so far less land in the region has been lost to wildfires in 2014 than in recent years.
That is partly due to an aggressive strategy to stop smaller forest fires before they become too big to handle.
At the frontline of this effort are the smokejumpers, airborne firefighters who parachute into the wilderness to get the blazes under control.
It’s a dangerous job for an elite group of highly-trained men and women. The BBC spoke to three smokejumpers – Ben Elkind, Gretchen Stumhofer and Luis Gomez – at their base in Redding, California.
Produced by the BBC’s Jack Garland.
Additional footage courtesy of Ben Elkind and Tye Erwin
In an example of what might be called a massive change of topic from yesterday’s post on Integrity and democracy, today’s offering to you, dear reader, is about the magnificent atmosphere upon which we all depend.
Every Breath We Take: Understanding Our Atmosphere
The air around us is not just empty space; it is an integral part of the chemistry of life. Plants are made from carbon dioxide, nitrogen nourishes the soil and oxygen gives us the energy we need to keep our hearts pumping and our brains alive. But how did we come to understand what air is made of? How did we come to know that this invisible stuff around us contains anything at all?
Gabrielle Walker tells the remarkable story of the quest to understand the air. It’s a tale of heroes and underdogs, chance encounters and sheer blind luck that spans the entire history of science. It began as a simple desire to further our knowledge of the natural world, but it ended up uncovering raw materials that have shaped our modern world, unravelling the secrets of our own physiology and revealing why we are here at all.
There is much more to explore on the website, including this trailer to the programme.
Oh, here’s another ‘clue’ from Oregon.
The presenter of the BBC series is Felicity Aston who writes on her BBC Blog:
I joined Operation Cloud Lab: Secrets Of The Skies as the expedition leader and also as a meteorologist.
The plan was to fly from Florida to California, looking at the science of the skies.
But as well as scientists, there were plenty of other people on the team including three pilots, a ground crew of 14 that followed the airship by road and a full production team including two camera crews. Not everyone could be on board at once – the airship would never have got off the ground!
But I was really fortunate to spend a lot of time on board and flew most of the way across the continent.
Exploring in three dimensions rather than being limited to making observations from the ground was a revelation to me.
The clouds in the tropics around the Gulf of Mexico are huge, and being in the sky with them really brought home the vast scale of the forces at work.
We were able to travel over, under and through these monsters, revealing that clouds are about as far from the popular image of light and fluffy floating puffs of cotton wool as you can get! They are dense and heavy and full of destructive energy.
I remember looking down at the cloud layer from a plane as a child, and daydreaming about exploring this new world of unknown places, so I was very excited the first time we flew straight through a cloud.
I leaned out of the airship as far as I dared into the heart of a cloud and found that it was a dark, damp mass of floating fog (of course!) – no mysterious worlds – my childhood fantasies were crushed!
There’s more to read on her blog as well as some stupendous photographs of clouds.
So if this gives you a thrill then don’t delay in watching the full-length Episode One on YouTube before it gets taken down. (Warning: if you watch the opening first few minutes you will be hooked for the full hour!)
Now to close with, yes you guessed it, my final ‘clue’ from Oregon.